Does the notion of spring cleaning put you into a state of overwhelm? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. To make it easier, we decided to tackle it one room at a time. In our new series, Clean Sweep, we ask Rachel Rosenthal, organizing expert and founder of Rachel and Company, to break it down for us into three easy parts which we’ll reveal over the next three weeks. Last week we shared tips for how to organize your kitchen cabinets. Up next: how to organize your junk drawer!

This might be a controversial statement across America but hear me out: I don’t believe in junk drawers. Now, I know what you’re thinking, did I click on the wrong article? Aren’t we supposed to be learning about organizing junk drawers and not shaming them? Well, no, you didn’t misclick and yes, we will get into the detail of how to organize a junk drawer in a moment. But before we do that it is important to dive into why I don’t believe in junk drawers. 

My biggest problem with a junk drawer is the word junk—old or discarded articles that are considered useless or of little value. Why would you take up valuable space in your kitchen, mudroom, or office with items of little value? Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that everything in your junk drawer needs to be high quality or valuable but it does need to serve a purpose.


When organizing any space from your fridge to your closet every piece needs to earn its keep—if you don’t wear those black pumps, donate them; if you’re past your quarantine baking phase, toss that sourdough starter—and the items in your junk drawer are no different. Every piece of “junk” needs to serve a purpose.

The second problem with a junk drawer is the catch-all mentality. We have been conditioned to simply toss items we don’t know what to do with into a junk drawer and think about them another day. This is how you end up with a drawer bursting at the seams and never being able to find that battery you know you have, or that matchbook when the power goes out. Just like other spaces in your home, your junk drawer should contain categories and you should be thinking about each piece before you add something new to the drawer.

Changing your mindset for your junk drawer from a catch-all space that contains junk to a space that holds categorized items that serve a purpose is the first step in organizing your junk drawer.

Once you move past thinking of the items in the drawer as junk, you will be more likely to maintain the organization systems we put in place.

My Step-by-Step Guide to Organizing Your Junk Drawer, Once and for All:

1. Take Everything Out.

Yes, everything! I know just the thought of it can make most of us wince, but the first step to organizing your junk drawer is to dump it all out. 

2. Declutter.

The next step is to declutter the items you currently have in your junk drawer. Initially, this is going to be easy with things like tossing trash but make sure you don’t stop there. Test each and every pen to make sure it works, test batteries, try out flashlights, etc. Think through which items you don’t need in your home at all and the ones that might be ready for donation.

3. Relocate.

After you’ve decluttered and scaled back the items in your junk drawer, next you have to determine if anything can be relocated to another area of your home. Do you need to keep your screwdriver in a kitchen drawer or can that go in the garage? Do you need a ruler in your junk drawer or is that better in the kids’ homework area?

4. Create Categories.

Whew, doesn’t that feel better already? Now that you have decluttered and relocated items you will be left with the pieces that need to go back into your junk drawer. Take these items and create categories for the drawer—a scissor section, a tape section and I know we all have a battery section.

5. Measure for (and Add) Products.

Once you have your categories in place you’ll want to measure your drawer for organizing products. Some type of bins or drawer organizers is essential for a junk drawer. Because this drawer often contains multiple categories, it’s important to create sections so that everything has a home and you don’t end up with one big jumbled mess again. Measure your drawer side to side and back to front (don’t forget about the depth) and then play a little Tetris with what dividers fit in your drawer and work with your categories.

6. Put Everything Back But Don’t Forget the Finishing Touches.

This is the step you’ll thank yourself for doing later. You’re going to place everything into the drawer bins/categories you’ve added but then, you’ll take it one step further. This step will be unique to your junk drawer but think sharpening each pencil in the junk drawer, finding the end of the tape and folding it over, or refilling a lighter. It’s these little things that make the biggest difference because now, everything in your junk drawer is ready to be used at a moment’s notice.

Rachel’s Top 3 Products for Organizing Your Junk Drawer:

About the Author

Rachel Rosenthal is an organizing expert and founder of Rachel and Company, a Washington, DC-based professional organizing firm. Since 2007, Rachel’s firm has worked with 3000+ clients and teamed up with prominent brands, including West Elm, Pottery Barn, The Container Store, and Four Seasons. Rachel is a TODAY Parenting Contributor and her organizing tips and expertise have been seen by millions and in 100+ publications, including Real Simple, Martha Stewart, House Beautiful, The Rachael Ray Show, and local NBC, ABC, and Fox morning shows. Rooted in the belief that organization can be achieved by all, Rachel emphasizes solutions that are easy to use and enhance a home’s existing aesthetic. Check out her site and follow @rachelorganizes on Instagram.

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